Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Immigrant Mother loved this country.

'I recognize you in my dreams' by Diane Wagner

This is a mixed media piece I did to honor my mother on Mothers Day this year.

When I was growing up, I never thought much about patriotism. I just went along, taking this American way of life for granted. I learned about the Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights in school, but did not pay much attention, maybe just enough to cover my ass in case of a quiz or test.
As I got older, I went about my life, at times happy and at other times not so happy. I've been dirt poor, and at times pretty well off. I lived most of my "under 18" life as a ward of the state. Tangled in a system that gave me a number, a social worker, court dates, foster homes and I thought, not much else.
School was a blessing to me. Something that I could excel in. I loved learning about some things. I felt that it was something constant in my life when not much else was.
I even got accepted on a paid scholarship to a private boarding school. I never did graduate though. I went back to my old stomping grounds on a school break, and never went back. I often wonder how things would have turned out if I had.
I took some college classes, at a community college that accepted me without a GED, saying they would help me acquire one. But I never did. I left because I was raising two small children without much help from anyone. I made some good decisions and plenty of bad. But I look at it as a life. We all have one, and this one is mine.
I also look at my life in this country now. The other day some friends were talking over on facebook about how people define themselves by their race. And that your heritage should never be forgotten but that once you are born here or become a citizen here, you are an American. I am happy to live in this country where our fore fathers had the wisdom to pen the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Where I can be free to live as I want, say what I want and worship as I choose.
I am made of multi-cultural stock, 1/2 Cuban, 1/4 English and 1/4 Irish. But I am 100 % American.
My mother came here from a Communist country. She was able to marry my father and come here. Just in the nick of time, or she would not have gotten out. She came with the promise to bring my sister here, leaving her with her father, my mothers first husband. But then things shut down. No one else was allowed to leave, and my mother never saw her first daughter again. my sister was 7 when my mother left her, and I was 7 when my mother left this earth. I have never been able to find my sister. As far as I know, she is still in Cuba.
My mother loved this country. And even though I was young, I knew this.
She studied and took the test to become a citizen, she struggled with the language, she took the Oath of Allegiance. She was so proud. I know very little of her language as she wanted to only speak English in our house. Except when her Cuban girlfriends would come over to play Canasta. Then she would make an exception. I would sit and listen to them. Strange sounding words and sounds flying off their tongues at it seemed 90 miles an hour.
I know a song, how to count a bit, and a few phrases. I took some Spanish in high school but I left school early that year.
When I was little I would not eat the Cuban dishes she would make. My dad liked Cuban food so she would cook black bean soup, Cuban pork sandwiches, and every once in a while she would take a whole day and make tamales. She would stock the freezer with little foil packets. Inside would be the meat and ground corn wrapped in a corn husk. I refused to eat any of it.
Now, I can't get enough.


  1. Your piece is lovely, Diane and thank you for sharing this part of yourself with us!

  2. I think far too many people don't understand what we have here.
    Thanks for posting. I hope a lot of people read this.

  3. What a heart-warming and heart-wrenching story. Thank you so much for sharing it. I think people who don't go through much in their lifetimes and don't have parents who came from another country to try and make a better life - forget sometimes how wonderful our country is in spite of the 'bad' things that happen and are reported in the news everyday. Hugs to you!

  4. Your piece is beautiful.

    I'm stopping by from SITS to say hello.


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